Social Media

The Psychology of Facebook Image Quotes That Go Viral

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What makes an image go viral on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram or any other social media platform?

You could say, nobody really knows how it happens or why some posts go viral and others hardly get any attention.  For example why on earth would a post like this gather over 1.6 Million shares on Facebook and get seen by 1% of the worlds population, that’s right it has been shown to over 75 Million people around the world:


Shared 1.6 Million Times on Facebook

From Steven Aitchison Facebook Page

Although we can't make images that will go viral all the time, there are ways we can increase the chances of an image quote going viral.

Shrinking Attention Span

Do you know what the average attention span of a human being is nowadays? Go on take a guess:

It’s 8 Seconds:

Yep, according to a study carried out by Microsoft Corp the average attention span of a human is now 8 seconds

That’s less than a goldfish!

So what does this mean for your business?  Well it means you have to create content that will grab the readers attention, and by content I mean image quotes, headlines, ads, videos, etc.

All good content should do one of three things:

Educate, Inspire or Entertain

The beauty of image quotes is that you can do all three.

Here’s some examples:



Shared 9,000 Times on Facebook
From David Wolfe Facebook Page



Shared 61,000 times on Facebook

From Spirit Science Facebook Page



Shared 2,100 times on Facebook

From Expiredbeans Facebook Page

So, when making images for Facebook or any other social media platform always remember to ask yourself, does it educate, does it inspire, or does it entertain.

Four Components of an Image quote

Generally there are four main components of a great image quote:





The Image

Imagine for a few seconds, you're on your phone scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed, there's hundreds of posts there, but suddenly an image with some text catches your eye.  You stop to look at the image, then read the quote.  You then do one of four things;
1) keep on scrolling,

2) like it and keep scrolling,

3) like it and leave a comment,

4) like it, leave a comment and visit the page to see more.

Well when you're making image quotes you obviously want casual readers to like it, comments on it and visit the page to see more.  The way to do this is have an amazing image.

Well, what makes an amazing image?

Take a look at these images, all of them have been shared over 100,000 times each, from my own page, and see if you can see what they all have in common.



Now take a look at the most shared posts on another popular page: SimpleReminders


Do you see a commonality between the two sets of images?

Well, there are two common elements here:

1) Contrast images: Black background with white text or light background with Black Text

2) One image hook: Most of the actual images with quotes have a singular focus e.g. a feather, a tree, a woman crying, a woman walking alone, a red heart, a red balloon.

The less busy an image is the better and that's why contrast images work so well, and why images with only one hook work great as well, the brain does not have a lot to process when it first notices the image, and since we only have a very short amount of time for a reader to process the image itself, it's best to not make it too busy.

Predominant colour of your image

I've always found colour psychology fascinating and how a certain colour can have an effect on our mood and touch our emotions.

Although there has not been a lot of studies that look at the role of colour in online social media I found an article by Laura Bliss @mslauraBliss:

Saeideh Bakhshi is searching for the answer. The research scientist at Yahoo! Labs' Human-Computer Interaction group has spent her career trying to understand what makes certain images catch attention on social media. "Historically, there hasn't been a lot of understanding about multimedia from a social science perspective," she says. "It's been hard to extract information from images."

But now, with a wealth of social media data and image-analysis tools, social science is getting closer to linking certain types of human behavior to particular qualities of photographs.

In a study published earlier this month on PLOS One, and which Bakhshi completed while still a PhD student at Georgia Tech, Bakhshi established a link between a photograph's main colors and its shareability. Analyzing 1 million images on Pinterest, she found that pictures composed mainly of the colors red, purple, and pink were more likely to be repinned, or shared. Blue, green, black, and yellow, meanwhile, suppressed diffusion. (read the full article here :

Just something to think about when you are making your images.

Where to find good images

If you really want to stand out from the crowd I would always choose professional images rather than the free ones.  Here's some great places to buy images from:

The Quote

okay, you have a great image, now what?  Well now it's time to look at the quote itself.

The quote itself should be educational, inspiring or entertaining.

The quote is extremely important as, again, you have have a few seconds for someone to see the image, read the quote and then there's another, internal, process called 'internalization', which basically means someone has to read it, comprehend it and make it relevant to them.

If you have a great quote that is relevant to a lot of people then you are onto a winner.  All quotes are not made equal so how do you find quotes that will appeal to most people, and enough for them to share.

First of all think about the topic that most people in the world, no matter what age, culture, race, colour, religion or any of the other stuff that supposedly makes us a little different from each other.  Look past everything and think about what EVERYONE thinks about at one time in their lives:




The differences between men and women




Using the categories above I am particularly thinking about inspirational quotes here.

When you can touch someone's emotions and make them see things from a different perspective then your image quote will get shared a lot.

Look at this one from a few weeks ago:


This quote is working on two levels.  First it makes you stop and think about life in a meaningful way and then it has a personal message, but it's a personal message that can be shared on other readers pages to then make it a personal message for their friends and family.

That particular post has been shared 300,000 times in the space of a few weeks.

So when you touch the readers emotions at a deep level you know you are onto a winner, and the way to find that out is to find out what quotes touch your emotional buttons.

Some great places to find great quotes:

Other Facebook pages, but click on 'Photos' on the timeline of the page, that way you get to see all the image quotes at a glance.


your font is extremely important when you are making images quotes.

Look at an example of these two images:

Nature1 Nature2

The font you choose has to stand out from the image itself in order to be read quickly and easily.  You don't have to choose arial all the time, I like to use the Athleas font.

When I am doing coaching with Facebook page owners the biggest mistake I see is the font being too small, and the font being one that is barely legible unless viewed as a large image, and what most people forget is that your images are going to mostly be seen on a mobile.  So the font becomes even more important when you think that when the image is viewed on a mobile it's going to be difficult to read.

Another good trick to use when thinking about the font is to make it stand out a little more.  On the second image above I have the Athleas font with a drop shadow effect and also a slight glow around it.  this makes the font and text stand out much more and makes it much more legible.

When someone struggles to read the quote because of a poor font choice, then it's game over, you'll lose their attention and they'll keep scrolling down their newsfeed.

you don't need to go looking for a great font as your computer will come preloaded with some good ones.

However you may need to think about the image making software that you are using.  I currently use Adobe Fireworks as I am so used to it and have been using it for over 15 years, but of course there's also Adobe Photoshop.  But there's a ton of others out there that can help you make good image quotes.

Another thing to think about is the size of your font.

If your font is too small it's going to be extremely hard to read on a mobile and a computer so make your font quite large without taking too much away from the image itself.


The branding that you use on each of your images is important from a business point of view and will not really impact the virality of your image.

If you're just starting out it's good to have, at least, your Facebook page url, which a lot of people use, and there's nothing wrong with that except that it doesn't come across as professional.

A better way would be to have a logo at the bottom with your name or website address.

You can buy decent looking logos from the aforementioned stock image sites or you can get one designed from somewhere like

The images below show you a good example of how much more professional an image looks with a logo:


if_you_take_more 11798561_503147433184429_751028875_n


Think about your audience

Everyone who has a Facebook page has a wealth of data at their fingertips regarding the audience who like their page.

To find this information just go to your page and click on 'Insights'

The data I am most interested in is the 'People'




The above tells me the most important data I need to know and that is 78% of my readers are women, predominantly between the ages of 18-54.

This makes a huge difference when you are thinking about the actual image and quote that you are going to use.  I gear all my images towards female readers e.g. have a an image of a female in most image quotes.  Whenever I have an image of a male it always bombs, so i have learned not to do that.  Also the emotional aspect of the quote is good as women, and this is a stereotype I know, are more in touch with their emotions than men.


So, to conclude you have the basis for making great image quotes for Facebook and all the other social media platforms out there.

Of course making images is only one aspect of growing a Facebook page, and over the weeks I will write more in-depth articles looking at different aspects of this.

If you want to know more about how to grow your Facebook page and your followers quickly, check out my program: Your Digital Formula LIVE Monthly

Some Amazing Comments


About the author

Steven Aitchison

Steven Aitchison is the author of The Belief Principle and an online trainer teaching personal development and online business.  He is also the creator of this blog which has been running since August 2006.